THERE was a time when women chattered about each over their back yard washing lines. Arms folded, lips pursed, eyebrows raised and voices lowered to a whisper when it got juicy.

I can remember my grandma doing just that, and leaping off the sofa to peer through her net curtains whenever Mrs So-and-So from Number 8 walked past.

If Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy had lived in such a neighbourhood back then, their feud would have been the talk of the street for a day or two, until the next nugget of smalltown gossip turned up.

But this is the age of social media, and the backyard gossip and curtain-twitching goes much further than the end of the street.

The very public Rooney/Vardy cat-fight is jaw-droppingly brazen. Coleen Rooney’s super sleuthing, and her allegation that Vardy’s Instagram account was the source of leaked press stories about her, takes cat-fighting to a whole new level.

The difference between this and the tittle-tattle of my grandma and her neighbours is that they wouldn’t have dreamed of airing their dirty laundry in public. Even being in the local paper would have been associated with scandal by that generation of women.

Now it seems it’s not enough to fall out with someone, or confront them privately. You shame them publicly, then bask in the likes and the “Go girl” and “Big hugs hun” comments from your army of followers. You’re “just being honest” - that get-out-of-jail card for being plain rude and nasty.

And such is the curious nature of modern fame, while reputations are ruined, profiles are raised. A little over a week ago, if you’d asked pretty much anyone in America who Rebekah Vardy was, they wouldn’t have had a clue. Now #Wagatha Christie has been lapped up by the US press, with the New York Times reporting that La Rooney has been “heralded a new national heroine”.

USA Today said: “This story has everything: A mystery, an investigation, a surprise twist, a denial”.

Even the Washington Post, which broke Watergate for heaven’s sake, ran a story on Rooney’s media sting under the headline “War Of The Wags”.

My first thought about #WagathaChristie was that Coleen Rooney must have a lotta time on her hands if she can spend months meticulously plotting a trap that involves planting fake news and blocking Instagram accounts. My second thought was “I look forward to the Channel 5 movie”.

You could argue that Wag wars are trivial nonsense, a bit of fun for the rest of us, but there’s something unsettling about this one. On the receiving end of the public shaming, and inevitable landslide of online abuse, is a heavily pregnant woman in distress. It seems we haven’t really moved on from the trial by ducking stool days.

I read that Rooney did what she did to protect “the next generation of Wags” against people selling stories. Oh please! Surely these grown women can look after themselves. Whatever her reasons, it feels like bullying to me. I don’t remember her calling out her husband when allegations of his behaviour off the pitch hit the headlines.

In centuries past, women who stepped out of line, or were simply disliked, were subjected to public humiliation by being dragged around in a chair or on a donkey, having their head clamped into a scold’s bridle, or strapped to poles and plunged into water. Break the Wag code and you get today’s equivalent.

Wouldn’t it be more dignified, and set a better example to children, to deal with these matters in private?

* IT'S no surprise that the UK, with its lawn-mowing obsession, has the highest percentage of house-living in Europe. According to European Commission figures, well over half the populace of countries like Spain and Germany lives in flats, while in Britain it's around 15per cent.

I lived in a flat for a long time before buying a house last year and sometimes I wish I was still a flat-dweller.

There are downsides, like service charge, awkward smalltalk in communal areas and neighbour noise, sometimes from all directions. But I liked the security of living in a flat, several floors up, and the low maintenance. Now I have slugs on my kitchen floor, a draught blowing through the front door, and I live in fear of the roof leaking. I miss my little flat.

* HALLOWEEN used to be a bit of spooky fun one night of the year. Now it’s big business, with whole supermarket aisles devoted to plastic tat and tacky costumes - including, I noticed, zombie outfits for toddlers.

We’re not quite as obsessed with Halloween as the Americans, but I sometimes wonder if it’s gone too far. Should we really be dressing children as the living dead, or road accident victims?

A Halloween ghost story is harmless fun for youngsters. Turning them into mini horror movie monsters can’t be healthy for their young minds.